Sunday, 14 October 2012


There’s no need for an alarm clock in Wli. The local cockerels provide a free wake-up call, competing to see how can screech the loudest. The problem is you can’t set them for a particular time. And so, I was roused at 4.30am – more than an hour before the scheduled start of our walk to Wli’s upper waterfall.

Wli waterfalls, a combination of two falls that together form the highest in West Africa, is one of the Volta Region’s most popular attractions. The usual approach is along the floor to the lower falls, but James and I had signed up for the route along a mountain ridge to the upper falls.

Looking across the valley
We met Samuel, our guide, at the Wli tourist office at 6.00am. Wli village was already busy; women and girls swept the yards, while a local bar already had music playing. And the souvenir sellers who line the path to the falls were already setting up their stalls, ready for the earliest arrivals. Clearly the cockerels do a thorough round of the village.

Samuel, with Mt Afadjato behind
We enjoyed the cool morning air as we climbed steadily, following the steep southern shoulder of the bowl that contains the falls. After 45 minutes we paused above a sheer rock face. As we sat, a West African River Eagle swooped past. It nearly dropped the branch in its beak, before performing a clumsy mid-air juggling act and gliding off nonchalantly, pretending nothing had happened.

As we followed its flight round to the cliff face where its nest no doubt lay, our gaze was drawn to Mount Afadjato to the south. This is Ghana’s highest mountain, if only by a few metres, but it looked suitably imposing for the title, rising up from the early-morning haze that hid the villages below.

A short climb further and we reached the forest that covers the top of the hillside. Hidden in the grass lay planks of wood, clearly cut by a mechanical saw.
Wli Upper Falls
‘Togolese’, said Samuel. ‘They come up here to steal wood and smuggle it across the border.’
‘But why don’t they cut wood in Togo’ enquired James.
‘And why do they cut wood in the forests right at the top of the hill, not lower down?’ I asked.
‘And do they really drag a mechanical saw all the way up here?’
‘Yes, Togolese’ repeated Samuel, emphatically. Discussion over. And neither of us could come up with a better explanation as to how they got there.

From the contraband wood, the path headed steeply into the chamber. Tree roots and vines provided vital handholds during the precarious descent, and the brief glimpses of the upper falls provided little distraction from the task at hand. After a final, vertical slide through mud, rock and bush, we finally reached level ground again and continued quickly to the falls.

The water cascaded from high overhead, dispersing into spray before it reached the plunge pool. The spray soaked us in seconds, providing instant refreshment in the morning heat. On the opposite side of the falls was a path leading uphill. ‘The path to Togo’, said Samuel solemnly. No doubt used by those pesky wood smugglers.

"Numerous bats"
After admiring the falls, we headed quickly downhill to reach the main footpath. After passing the colony of bats that live near the falls – modestly promoted in the region as Wli’s “numerous bats” – we returned to the comfort of Wli Water Heights Hotel to shower, shower again, and then eat.

From the hotel’s courtyard, you can just see the waterfall, as well as the many other hills that crowd this beautiful corner of Ghana. And so we settled in for an afternoon of the scenery it from a distance while the hotel’s friendly waiter brought a steady supply of well-earned beers. It had been an early start thanks to the cockerels, but at least Wli is suitably sleepy during the rest of the day.

View from the hotel

No comments:

Post a Comment